Contrast France and Spain. How does each represent a difference in values? What do the churches that are described have to do with those values? How does Jake’s statement, “I only wish I...

Contrast France and Spain. How does each represent a difference in values? What do the churches that are described have to do with those values? How does Jake’s statement, “I only wish I felt religious and maybe I would the next time” fit this?

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Paris represents the cynical, jaded modern world. France, of course, was most closely associated with the slaughter of World War II through its battlefields, and Jake drifts unhappily through this modern city. 

As Jake crosses into the Pyrenees, the border between France and Spain, he enters the countryside, and a liminal space that represents freedom from the pain of Paris's urbane modernity.

Spain represents a different world, a throwback to the past. People still hold traditional values here, symbolized by religious street festivals, churches (Jake notes the many steeples in Pamplona), and, of course, bullfighting: a pure, unmechanized form of battle that proves one's manhood.

In Spain, Jake, who was raised Catholic, slips into a church and tries to pray, but finds his mind wandering. He realizes he is praying for money. He wishes the church could offer him solace, but it doesn't. He notes:

[I] regretted that I was such a rotten Catholic, but realized there was nothing I could do about it, at least for a while, and maybe never, but that anyway it was a grand religion, and I only wished I felt religious and maybe I would the next time.

In other words, he acknowledges with at least some sincerity (Brett, in contrast, is always ironic about religion) that Catholicism is "grand," longs to feel rooted in such a traditional faith system, and notably, doesn't give up hope--perhaps he will feel faithful "the next time." He could be completely ironical in that last utterance, but he sounds at least half sincere. As part of the lost generation, he does long for something fixed--but the church no longer provides it. 

Later, he does try again, with Brett, entering a church at Brett's request. But it is to no avail:

Outside in the hot brightness of the street Brett looked up at the tree-tops in the wind. The praying had not been much of a success.

Jake would like, on some level, to be like Romero, fixed unquestioningly in a traditional order. Jake sees power (potency) in that, but too much has happened to him. He can't connect with what he needs through religion or the traditional world of Spain.

lynnebh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The trip to Spain offers respite to Jake. In Paris, he is truly a lost soul, an expatriate who seems to enjoy nothing in life, so he drinks excessively. In this chapter and in the following ones, we see the difference between France and Spain. The French are intent on being sophisticated, but the Spaniards are more fun-loving. They drink wine out of skins that they pass around, they enjoy bull fighting. The French in Paris seem a bit snooty, whereas the Spaniards are friendly. The weather is sunny and it is hot in Spain, and this seems to affect the peoples' dispositions. They have a week-long fiesta prior to, during and after the bull fights. Hemingway is making a contrast between the outlook on life between the French and the Spaniards.

In Spain, Jake goes into the churches sometimes. Before he goes in, he always mentions that he "isn't drunk." One time he goes to church with Brett because she says she wants to hear his confession and he replies that "it isn't all that interesting." Jake has been raised a Catholic, but he is not religious. However, something is left in his soul, a remainder of the peace that his faith may have brought to him at one time. He keeps getting drawn back to church, even though he protests that he is not religious, and "maybe next time" - he keeps hoping that he can find some redemption by going to church, but he never does.

The closest Jake comes to "freedom" however is in Spain, on the fishing trip with Bill, out in nature. One can really see Hemingway's values coming through here - in his own life, religion failed him, just like Jake. Jake makes only a half-hearted effort to let faith heal his soul. He looks upon it as something magic that might work, but he does not understand the nature of faith.

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The Sun Also Rises

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